June 2, 2010

The Silent Client

Recently, we experimented with a simple exercise we call 'the silent client'. You can try it out with a colleague or friend. One of you takes on the role of the coach, the other one is the client. The client thinks of something he or she would like to be different. The coach asks a solution-focused question. The client thinks about this question but does not answer it. When the client has found an answer to the question he or she gives a sign that the coach can ask the next question. The coach asks the next question. Throughout the process, the client says nothing. Here are some examples of questions for the coach:
  • What would you like to be different?
  • How would like the situation to become?
  • What have you already accomplished?
  • What will be the first small sign that will tell you that things are starting to move in the right direction?
  • What ideas do you get from this for taking a small step forward?
The responses were interesting. If your try this exercise, do let me know how it went.


  1. Coert,

    When you did this exercise what was achieved, or what was the learning objective?

  2. Hi Rodney,
    The reason we tried this experimental exercise was that we wanted to have our participants experience what would happen if the coach would be able to respond at all. Also, we predicted that even in such radical circumstances these question could be rather useful. We also thought it would be a good exercise in keeping still.
    The responses we got were rather positive. Here are 4 literal responses:

    1. What an awesome exercise! Ultimate client directedness.
    2. Our 'conversation' laste 5 minuted and I have a concrete idea about a next step even though the problem is rather serious.
    3. this exercise give much trust in that the solution-focused approach works
    4. you start to focus sharply on whether a question is useful for your client and you adjust if that is not the case even though nothing is being said.

  3. Coert,

    Thanks for answring my question. It sounds like this was indeed a powerful exercise. Great training in noticing non-verbal cues as well.



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